Banks Moving Further to Expand Lending

A common theme for our market notes over the past few months has been the emerging trend of banks in the US moving aggressively to extend credit in the form of housing and construction loans.  The two main sources of bank profitability in the years following the financial crisis, home refinancing and securities trading, have slowed considerably this year.  To make up for these lost sources of revenue and profits and to take advantage of the improvement in home prices and consumer credit quality, banks are once again marketing home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs.  As reported by the Wall Street Journal last week, citing a report by Inside Mortgage Finance, HELOCs in the first quarter grew by 8% year/year to $13 billion.  That is the largest first quarter increase since 2009.  While still well the below the record $113B extended in the third quarter of 2006, the increase continues the trend of credit availability.  One of our pillars for improved US economic growth during 2014 is a stronger consumer.  Based on the re-emergence of HELOCs, as well as easier lending standards for other types of loans, banks seem ready and willing to help the idea of increased spending become reality.